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Setting the Record Straight on Rule 240

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Plane flyingEver since we first posted about Rule 240 and then Peter wrote about it in his MSNBC column, there have been dozens of discussions, disagreements and debates among bloggers, commenters and various Web denizens.

Having provoked such a virulent debate, and having watched it develop, we felt it was time to clear up a few misconceptions about what we’re saying in regards to Rule 240.

Peter is once again attempting to set the record straight.

  • Yes, as I stated, Rule 240 is no longer on the books. It hasn’t been since 1978 when the CAB (Civil Aeronautics Board) and most airline regulation was junked.
  • Rule 240, now that it’s no longer an official part of the US DOT policy, is shorthand among veteran air travelers for “Please help me get rerouted on another airline so I can get to my destination relatively quickly.”
  • Rule 240 is now integrated into most airlines’ contracts of carriage, to a greater or lesser extent.
  • It’s been implied that I meant that a flier using 240 should be pushy with their requests, or to make demands. That is false. I have always advocated being nice to airline employees, gate agents, even TSA agents.
  • The entire point of the article is the need for fliers to know their rights, obligations, and options. When you buy a ticket on an airline, you agree to their contract of carriage. They agree to take you from point A to point B in a reasonable amount of time. In many of those contracts, provisions are made for what happens when something goes wrong.
  • In nearly all contracts of carriage, there is a difference between things beyond the airline’s control (weather, terrorism and “acts of God”). If snow has shut down O’Hare, that’s hardly something the airline could control. If an airline’s plane has to go into maintenance instead of flying you to Los Angeles, then we’ve got a scenario under which 240 can be used.

That’s when you call the airline (you can do this while waiting in the long line of people who are suddenly trying to rebook) and ask them to put you on a flight from another airline. Always bring a keep of your airline’s contract of carriage so you’ll know your rights.

The next step is a simple one, and it’s a trick of Rule 240 that seems to have been lost in all the debate.

Instead of simply asking to get put on a different flight … make a suggestion: Tell them you want to get on the 4:40 p.m. flight on American Airlines that goes to Chicago, or the 3:05 p.m. departure via Atlanta on Delta.

Be specific, be polite, be grateful, but be firm. You’ve got to get to your destination, and there’s a perfectly good flight that can get you there. All you need is to get on it.

Simply put:

If you do don’t ask, you don’t get.

And if you don’t know the rules, you won’t know to ask.

And, last but not least, I’ve used Rule 240 successfully twice in the last six weeks.

Read more from Peter’s Travel Detective Blog.

Check out the Rule 240 post that started it all.

Want to avoid having to use Rule 240 in the first place? Try one of America’s Best Alternate Airports as well as the follow-up, more of America’s Best Alternate Airports.